Arming Ukraine, sanctioning Russia

The worse the outcome of a Russian victory in Ukraine, the stronger the case for providing Ukraine with the weapons and supplies it needs to defeat the Russian invasion. 

Russian atrocities clearly strengthen the case for arming Ukraine. 

The very real prospect of ethnic genocide following a Russian victory strengthens the case further:

Plus Russia itself has become far more authoritarian – meaning that life will be unspeakably oppressive for Ukrainians under Russian rule.

Russian atrocities also make prospects for a negotiated end to the conflict worse:

Or this, from Max Boot:

How will this war end? No one can yet say. The Ukrainians are rightly enraged by Russian atrocities and will be less likely to make territorial compromises with the invaders, knowing that to do so would be to consign their fellow citizens to a Stalinist hell. But as a former Putin adviser says, “Russia cannot afford to ‘lose,’ so we need a kind of a victory.”

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of victory in a war of attrition, even with American/NATO assistance (see the whole thread):

Any satisfaction over the Ukrainian victory in the first battle of Kyiv must be tempered by the prospect of a protracted struggle in the east, and by the certainty of continued Russian atrocities and genocide.

On the other hand, “dismantling Russia” is not a realistic aim of war or diplomacy here, but it’s easy to see the emotional power:

To my mind, both arming Ukraine and tightening sanctions are desirable, but we need to accept the high likelihood that Putin will remain in control of Russia.  Putin has successfully converted Russia into a Soviet-style police state, and it still has nuclear weapons.  Age or illness is likely to take Putin before sanctions, and the risk that a cornered Putin will use nuclear or chemical weapons is hopefully small but cannot be completely ignored.  We need to do whatever we can to aid Ukraine and limit Russian killing, and also keep an eye on the long run goal of nudging Russia in a more democratic direction.

The question of what weapons the U.S. and NATO should give to Ukraine is complicated by fear of escalation, and also by the need to train troops to use new technologies and to put logistical support in place. 

But supply considerations are also being mentioned as constraints.  For example, Ukraine apparently wants 500 Javelins per day.  That’s a lot, but really, if they need them, why not?

Russia’s faltering campaign in Ukraine and the relative success of Ukrainian forces in fending off the invasion have forced the U.S. and other NATO governments to consider providing military aid for Kyiv on a scale Western leaders never anticipated, current and former officials say.

It’s not clear, however, that the U.S. and other NATO members can sustain even the current level of weapons deliveries.

The White House says that it has moved swiftly in an unprecedented way to get weapons in the hands of Ukrainians fighting the Russian troops, and that U.S. officials are working with NATO allies to keep the arms moving to Ukraine.

Since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, U.S. cargo planes have unloaded hundreds of anti-aircraft Stingers, thousands of anti-tank weapons, millions of rounds of ammunition and other gear destined for Ukraine’s armed forces, according to the White House. The weapons deliveries to Eastern Europe came as President Joe Biden recently approved more than $1 billion of military assistance for Ukraine in less than a week.  

But these commitments threaten to deplete the existing supplies of some munitions, according to John Schaus of the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank. 

Under recent decisions, the United States will deliver about 4,600 Javelin anti-tank missiles to Ukraine, the White House says. That would account for more than half of the 8,885 Javelins the Defense Department bought in the past 10 years, said Schaus.

Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain, Vadym Prystaiko, warned last week that its current supply of arms will run out soon as their forces are burning through the supplies at a rapid rate. Canada said it will now purchase military gear to send to Ukraine as it could not draw any further from its own supplies without undermining its own defense needs.

I certainly hope (and suspect) we are sending the Ukrainians as many Javelins as they can use, even if this depletes our inventory.  I mean, what are we going to use Javelins for, other than repelling a Russian tank invasion of a NATO ally?  If the Ukrainians are using Javelins to destroy Russian tanks, that’s perfect, no?  And who on earth is Canada afraid of? 

This goes for other weapons as well.

As usual with Ukraine, this is just me thinking out loud about subjects I know nothing about, so caveat lector.